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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Counseling

Newsletter
Counseling Program News
March 2014
 

How to Help Children of Different Ages Cope with a Death

Adapted from an article by Earl A. Grollman, D.H.L., D.D.

Some people believe that children are just too young to understand the meaning of death, that they shouldn't be burdened with thoughts they cannot possibly grasp, and that they should be spared adult grief.

But children growing up today are well aware of the reality of death. They seem to have built-in lie detectors and know something ominous is occurring in their small world. We cannot protect them from the tragedies of life, but we can exercise considerable influence by modeling healthy attitudes.

There are many variables that affect children's understanding of death, such as who died, where, when, and how, and how the death will affect the child, as well as the child's prior experiences with loss. And of course, there is the developmental age. It is important to remember that children of the same age may differ widely in their comprehension and behavior. It is impossible to fit perceptions into a fixed-age category. For all of us, the meaning of death changes as our life changes. The following are but general guidelines that might prove helpful.

Ages Five to Nine

Because of their life experiences, youngsters this age are better able to understand the meaning of physical death. Death is final. Living things must die. But they may not think of it as happening to them. At this stage, they may neither deny death nor accept its inevitability. A compromise is made. Death is "real" – but only for others, the aged.

Some tend to consider death comes in the form of a person or spirit. Those who watch horror shows may believe death is a bogeyman, a skeleton, or a ghost that makes the rounds late at night and selectively carries away helpless victims.

They want to know about the physical aspects of the death, "How did the person die?" "Was she killed?" "Was there a lot of pain?" "How does she look now?" "What happens to the body?"

What you can do:

Children in this age range cope best when they receive simple, honest, and accurate information. If they desire, let them attend the services for that which is more visible and mentionable is clearly more manageable. Don't be afraid to show your grief. Adults' controlled behavior is more difficult for them to handle than expressed sorrow.

Ages Ten and Older

Now children can formulate realistic concepts based on observation. Death is not a person but a perceptible end of bodily life. Dead is dead. It is final and universal. It is brought about by natural as well as accidental causes. Death is that inevitable experience which happens to all, including the child.

Death as the end of life is especially frightening and painful for young people ten years of age and older. Death is now a biological failure of organs to function. The magical, life-renewing conception of death is replaced by one that is terminal and fearsome. This perspective carries with it feelings of fragility as young people search for their own identity and philosophy of life and death.

When a loved one dies, children of this age may have difficulty in concentrating, exhibit a decline in the quality of their schoolwork, become withdrawn and isolated from family and friends, and seem persistently angry and sad. There could be frequent physical complaints with constant fatigue and frequent drowsiness. For older children, unresolved grief may be reflected in drug or alcohol abuse, impulsive behavior, and increased risk-taking. Instead of controlling their moods, their moods control them.

What you can do:

The way in which youngsters work through their grief depends a great deal on how family members and friends reach out to them. The more they are encouraged to share their grief, the more likely they will be better able to cope with the loss in their life. Grieving may help to bring direction to their lives as they become more open to others. "After this, I know I can handle anything," one youth said. "I now know that our family will stick together and who my real friends are. I'm able to remember the person who died without always crying by thinking of some of the great times we had together."

Make sense of death at an age-appropriate level in a safe physical and psychological environment. The goal is to understand that death is irreversible and permanent, involving the cessation of all physiological functioning. The ways of helping children cope are as limitless as adults' patience, caring, and love.

 
February 2014
 
The Importance of Sleep

We all know that it is important to get a good night's sleep at any age! 

The problem for parents is that youngsters can often turn bedtime into a battleground if they are difficult to settle and seem to have endless 'excuses' for popping out one more time. Sleep is important for maintaining good health and for recharging energy. 

Sleep deprivation leads to children feeling tired and to having poorer concentration and attention span during the day. This affects their ability to learn as their reasoning and processing skills are slower. The child will often show more irritability and frustration and be more accident prone. Anxiety and depression are linked with sleep loss. Their immune system can also be lowered. Unfortunately, being overtired actually makes it harder to relax and fall asleep. 

Children between 5 – 12 years need about 10 – 11 hours of sleep per night on average. 

Quality of sleep can be influenced by many factors. Some are inherent or developmental - such as asthma, allergies, or 'growing pains'. Others relate to the environment - such as anxiety about bad dreams or daytime stresses, or lack of exercise. 

The good news is that parents can help their children to change poor sleeping patterns but it takes some time and consistent effort to set up better routines. You cannot “make” someone fall asleep but you can help make it more likely by providing a quiet and predictable pre-bedtime routine. 

If you are concerned about your child's sleep, keep a record of their patterns for a few weeks. Note the time they wake up and whether they seem tired or irritable then or during the day. Include the weekends as well as school days. 

If they seem to be doing well with less sleep than recommended, you will need to decide whether the bedtime battles are really about the child's need for sleep or your own need for a peaceful evening. You might find that you can get them to bed then allow them to quietly read or listen to music for a set time. 

Some children have a natural tendency to stay up but are hard to wake in the morning. Parents will need to wake the child earlier consistently (even in the weekends) so that their daily internal 'clock' changes. We see this happening with daylight saving as we all have to adjust to different hours. 

The routine before bed can start an hour or so beforehand if you include the evening meal and a pleasant bath. Ensure that homework time is provided early in the evening or straight after a snack. Refer to the clock as bedtime approaches. You will already be familiar with the excuses your child tends to use. Build these into the routine - have a drink of water by the bed, decide what easy food is allowed if they say they are hungry, put on the night light, remind them that they must stay in bed now. 

Some children demand that parents stay in the room until they fall asleep. This can be done as a transition strategy but the point is for the child to be able to put themselves to sleep. 

Other reassurances can be provided if the child is anxious. 
  • Quiet, soothing music which blankets other noises
  • A worry box to put their worries in or a worry doll to hold
  • tell stories about characters that overcome worries/fears (check the Library)
  • use positive phrases that reinforce the idea of having a 'lovely sleep' and being full of energy in the morning
  • teach and practise relaxation techniques so they are familiar with them and can enjoy them at bedtime on their own. You can read scripts initially and show the child how to follow the ideas or use special CDs so that they can be independent
Find our more information on the Melbourne Children's Sleep Centre website. 
 
January 2014


Just sending them on their way

Families have all had quite a few days together. So don’t just send the kids out the door as vacation ends, as you would if they had been in school yesterday.

“As a goodbye on the first day back to school or work, be sure to smile and tell your child that even though you won’t be together (or you’ll miss each other) today, you’ll still be thinking about him and you know he’ll be thinking about you,” says Beth Griffith, a D.C. -based child and adult psychotherapist.

After a long break from school, one that included lots of overstimulation, fun and major changes in routines, children who tend to be anxious may have a tough time transitioning back and separating from their parents.

Think about it: It’s hard even for many of us adults to return to our early wakeups, deadlines, jobs and schedules.

“When one’s parent isn’t beside her, a child has to find a place in her mind where she can recall a picture of mom or dad,” Griffith says. “Simply verbalizing that can help both parent and child manage the missing and can reassure your child that you’ll be internally there even if not physically present.”

Helping your child to internalize loved ones and to use language to help think about and understand those feelings “are two of the most crucial developmental coping skills you can help your child gain,” she says. “Plus you’ll be sending the message that you’re confident in his ability to use those coping skills.”

Excerpted from Amy Joyce  
Six things every parent needs to stop doing right now

October 2013
Learning to Use Your School Counselor
    The school year is underway with many opportunities and challenges.  While it is common for parents to focus on the school's classroom teachers, there are other important resources at school including the school counselors, psychologist, and social worker. School counselors are the professionals educated and trained to work with students in terms of human development, relationship issues and the many choices that students have to face. 
   While most of us are aware that school counselors can help with many of the "problems in living" and relationship issues that growing youngsters have to face.  They also teach lessons in the classrooms and run small groups. 
   School counselors are among the best educated and trained professionals in your child's school.  The Commonwealth of Virginia requires counselors hold at least a Masters degree in counseling. Having well-trained professionals as school counselors helps them understand both the educational process and the developmental stages that children go through.  They understand the significant self-concept developmental issues that occur and know how to help students facing difficulties.
   Many parents fail to realize that their school counselor is there to not only help the students, but can also provide assistance to parents facing problems with their child.  When you're dealing with your child's unhappiness with school, the school counselor is the resource you need. 
   An excellent investment for you as a parent is to make an appointment, within the first semester, to meet your child's school counselor and to understand the services she can provide.  You'll probably find your school counselor's expertise can be a valuable asset in trying to raise a healthy, happy, well-adjusted child. 
 Adapted from the American Counseling Association
 
September 2013
 
 
August 2013
 
Teasing Isn't Something To Be Ignored
from the American Counseling Association
 
Teasing may often seem a normal part of childhood. Most parents have had to comfort a teary-eyed child who has been the victim of a teasing episode at school. It's just what children do, right?
While schools are working harder to combat schoolyard violence and bullying, too often teasing is dismissed as something minor and commonplace that doesn't do much harmHowever, the reality is that teasing can have painful and long-lasting effects. Studies have found that children who are repeatedly teased may end up suffering from depression, anxiety and sleep problems. They are more likely to avoid school, and in severe cases can suffer from serious emotional and psychological issues.
Parents often try to encourage their son or daughter to pay no attention to being teased, repeating that old adage, "Sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Or they may be dismissive, telling the child to tough it out, saying that being teased just builds character. Such advice, however, doesn't really help and may just convince the child that mom and dad really don't understand how painful it is being teased. Sometimes that can lead to the child withdrawing and not sharing experiences.
Instead, experts advise letting your child know that what has upset him or her is just as serious a problem to you. Listen sympathetically to what happened and try and see the problem from your child's point of view. Don't be critical or disapprove of how your child handled the incident. He or she is already feeling picked upon and hurt. Be supportive, showing you understand why the teasing was upsetting. You might share stories, real or hypothetical, of your teasing experiences. Your child should understand it is perfectly normal to be upset by teasing.
Children can also learn how to handle or stop teasing. There are several books on the subject. Your child's school counselor can also help. The idea is not to report the teaser, since that will seldom stop the problem, but rather to get the counselor to help your child learn techniques to stop the teasing. A local professional counselor specializing in family and child counseling is another place to turn for assistance. 
To adults, teasing may seem a minor issue, but for a child facing repeated taunting, harassment and ridicule, this is a problem that can have serious negative effects his or her life.
 
"Counseling Corner" is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments
and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at counseling.org
 
June 2013
 Healthy Eating

Adapted from review by  Mari-Jane Williams Post Points

Children's wellness is influenced by many factors including adequate sleep, physical exercise, personal/social relationships, and healthy eating. If you are trying to figure out how to teach your children good eating habits and how to have a healthy relationship with food, check out, Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School.

The book, written by two dietitians Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobson, offers recipes and tips on meal planning, nutrition and fitting cooking into a busy schedule. Here are some tips, from the book:

*Rotate different fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and protein sources frequently in your child's diet. The more variety your child eats... the better her chances are of meeting specific nutrient requirements. Remember not to get hung up on how your child eats one day; instead, consider her intake over the course of the week.

*Instead of overcontrolling how much children eat ("You can have one cookie"), allow them to enjoy the sweets in a focused way until they are satisfied: "Let's sit at the table and enjoy the cookies."

*Serve meals family-style and allow your child to serve himself, helping him if he is under five years old. Serving items separately instead of mixing foods can help.

*Add foods to your teen's diet that lower cholesterol naturally: oats; barley; beans; eggplant; okra; nuts; vegetable oils; strawberries; citrus fruits; apples; grapes; soy; fatty fish; and foods fortified with sterols and stanols, such as margarine, granola, and chocolate.

May 2013
 May is Mental Health Month

"Pathways to Wellness" - this year's theme for Mental Health Month - calls attention to strategies and approaches that help all Americans achieve wellness and good mental and overall health.  Wellness involves complete general, mental and social well-being, and mental health is an essential component of overall health and well-being.

 
 
There are many activities that promote well-being and help us achieve wellness.  These include maintaining a balanced diet, regular exercise, appropriate amounts of sleep, maintaining a sense of self-worth, developing coping skills that promote resiliency, emotional awareness, and staying connected to family, friends and the community.In an effort to increase awareness about mental health, we invite you to participate in Mental Health Month by spreading the role of wellness in fostering good mental health.  This link offers suggestions to families to do during May to promote mental health http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/may/calendar
 
 
April 2013
 
 April is Child Abuse Awareness Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect and encourage individuals and communities to support children and families.

How does domestic violence affect children?

Domestic violence often includes child abuse. Children may be victimized and threatened as a way of punishing and controlling the adult victim of domestic violence. Or they may be injured unintentionally when acts of violence occur in their presence. Often episodes of domestic violence expand to include attacks on children. However, even when children are not directly attacked, they can experience serious emotional damage as a result of living in a violent household. Children living in this environment come to believe that this behavior is acceptable.

The estimated overlap between domestic violence and child physical or sexual abuse ranges from 30 to 50 percent. Some shelters report that the first reason many battered women give for fleeing the home is that the perpetrator was also attacking the children. Victims report multiple concerns about the effects of spousal abuse on children.

In Arlington County if you suspect Child Abuse (Child Protective Services) call 703-228-1500.

 
March 2013
Common Sense Online
 Source:http://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/internetsafetyelem-tip.pdf
 When elementary-aged children first start exploring the Internet, most parents are concerned about strangers - the chance children will meet a dangerous teen or adult.  While parents do have to be aware of online strangers - and teach children to avoid them - keeping children safe online is a lot more than not giving private contact information to strangers.  Staying safe is about a child's entire online experience.  Beginning at the age when children start to interact on the internet - playing games, watching YouTube videos, socializing in virtual worlds, sharing pictures, and searching on Google - parents need to be actively involved in their children's online lives. 
Teaching digital citizenship includes reminding children not to give out private information, to behave responsibly and respectfully toward others, and to understand the difference between ads and content.  Being responsible about online life also means limiting the amount of time children spend online and teaching them to balance online activities with other activities.  Start by visiting the sites your children enjoy (good links are available on the grade level web sites).
Keeping your children safe requires active parental engagement and real conversation about online life.  In today's world, where children turn to the Internet for just about all of their interests, education is a parent's first line of defense in keeping children safe.
It's harder than ever for parents to keep track of what children are doing online.  Children today can go online from so many different sources, including video game consoles, iPhones and smart phones, and even handheld gaming devices.  Young people are increasingly living their lives online, and their digital devices are some of their favorite toys and tools.  With active parent guidance the Internet can be a safe place; however, it is an ongoing process as children get older and technology evolves.
 
October 2012
 
 

Parents More Influential Than Schools in Academic Success


Parents who want their children to succeed academically in school have more influence over that outcome than the schools themselves, according to a study by researchers from three universities.

"The effort that parents are putting in at home in terms of checking homework, reinforcing the importance of school, and stressing the importance of academic achievement is ultimately very important to their children's academic achievement," Dr. Toby Parcel, professor of sociology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. and a co-author of the study, told Education Week.

To arrive at their findings, researchers used the National Education Longitudinal Study data to evaluate social capital at home and at school. Parcel said her group evaluated results from 10,000 12th graders, taking into account their composite test scores in math, reading, science, and history to measure achievement levels.

Researchers compared measures of "family social capital" and "school social capital," discovering that even in schools that had low social capital, students were more likely to excel if their family social capital scores were high.

Measures of family social capital included:

• Does the parent check the student's homework?
• Does the parent attend school meetings?
• Does the parent attend school events?
• How much trust does the parent have in the child?
• How often do students report discussing school programs, activities, and classes with parents?

"In part what's going on is that, when the children's parents are engaged in those ways, then the children pick up on it. They think, 'School is important. My parents think it's important,' and that increases their attachment to education, which translates into better achievement," Parcel said.

To measure school social capital, which is defined as a school's ability to serve as a positive environment for learning, the researchers evaluated:

• Student participation in extracurricular activities;
• Whether the school contacted parents;
• The level of teacher morale;
• The level of conflict between teachers and administrators;
• Whether teachers responded to individual student needs; and
• An overall measure of school environment that tapped delinquency, absenteeism, and violence.student at the University of California-Irvine, reported their findings in "Does Capital at Home Matter More than Capital at School?: Social Capital Effects on Academic Achievement," which was published online Sept. 5 by the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility.

Parcel and co-authors Dr. Mikaela Dufur, of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and Kelly Troutman, a Ph.D.

 

September 2012
 

Small Counseling Groups at Nottingham 2012-13

The purpose of a counseling group at school is to complement and enhance student learning by helping students improve their perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. A psycho-educational  group provides a safe setting where children increase their: 1) self-awareness, 2) cooperation and communication skills, and 3) ability to have fun with peers. Children learn from each other and help each other. Ultimately, the goal of an elementary support group is to PREVENT problems in the future by teaching children new skills.

The counselors are getting ready to start small groups in early October.  To help us prioritize the groups we offer and the order we conduct them we need to know if you are interested in your child participating in a small group with one of us this year.  Groups generally meet for 25-40 minutes per week with the number of sessions dependent on the purpose and needs of the group.  This is our starting list but other groups can be added as needed:

Friendship Groups / Social Skill Development (Grades 1-4) 6-11 sessions

Friendship Groups are a fun way for students in the same grade level to make new friends and practice their social skills in a safe, small group setting. Children are invited to participate in friendship groups for a variety of reasons. A few examples include: a child who is shy or often appears to play alone during free choice time or recess, a child exhibiting behaviors that unknowingly (to the child) “turn off” others, a child who repeatedly complains of not having any friends, a child who has a hard time initiating friendships, a child who lacks self-confidence, and/or who needs a confidence boost, or a child who is very accepting and easily befriends other children (always a very beneficial addition to a group). Role models are welcome!

Emotion Management (Grades 2- 4) 8-11 sessions

These groups are designed to assist children in developing strategies to help them understand their feelings and put them in perspective so they can better relax , cope, learn and have fun with friends. The child who might benefit from being in this group may worry a lot, may show a great deal of resistance to try new experiences, may often seem anxious, have a lot of fears and/or make frequent trips to the nurse for headaches and tummy aches. Children who exhibit one of the above, or a combination, can develop understanding and coping strategies in a fun, safe environment.

Impulse Control (Grades 1 & 2) 9-10 sessions

By utilizing the principles of learning such as modeling, role-playing, feedback and transfer students will be taught prosocial behaviors. Children will be encouraged to “think before they act” by providing them with new skills, sufficient practice and reinforcement in their home and school environments. 

Families In Separate Homes (Grade 1) or All Kinds of Families (Grade 3) 8-9 sessions

Family Change Groups are for students whose family is something other than the traditional mom, dad, and child(ren).  These groups are beneficial to students by enabling them to meet other children going through a similar experience. Many students find comfort in discovering they are “not the only one” in the school with a family that has experienced a change or does not look like the families of most of their classmates. Students also develop a greater comfort discussing feelings and skills they might need to express themselves.

Study Skills and Organization Groups (Grades 4 & 5) 6-8 sessions

Being successful in school and building a solid academic foundation is important to future success.  Based on the specific needs of the group skill building activities will be taught, practiced, encouraged, structured, and maintained for children to be successful.  These skills may consist of listening, focusing, being organized, using time efficiently, knowing how to study, completing homework, knowing how to take tests, and maintaining a good attitude are all essential skills for school success.

Girl Empowerment (Grades 4 & 5) 6-7 sessions

These groups are designed to strengthen self-esteem and self-perception. The groups promote awareness about how certain environments can affect self-esteem and encourages resiliency.

5th Grade Book & Bag Lunch (Separate Groups for Girls and Boys) 6-7 sessions

All 5th grade students are invited to participate in a 5th Grade book discussion group at lunch that will focus on peer relationships and how to navigate the sometimes tricky waters of friendship. Students who sign up will be loaned a book to read and discuss dealing with topics that include peer pressure, cliques, being different, and fitting in.

Lunch Bunch (Kindergarten) 3-5 sessions

All kindergarten students are invited to participate in our informal “Lunch Bunch" program. Students whose parents sign them up are periodically invited to come eat their lunch in the counselor's office with a few of their classmates.  Lunch bunches provide a chance for conversation and games.   The focus is on developing friendship and social skills.  Groups rotate each week to ensure that all students get an opportunity to participate.

Most children can benefit from participation in a small group. Students can be invited to join a group by parent request, teacher suggestion, or by student request.  We do our best to work around your child’s schedule and not interrupt their academic learning. If you'd like for your child to participate, contact one of the counselors.

 
August 2012
 
Welcome Back
 
 
Welcome back for another exciting school year.  This year Ms. Bresnahan will again work with kindergarten and she will also be the third grade counselor.  She will be at Nottingham on Thursdays and Fridays.  Dr. McCormac, the full-time counselor, will work with grades 1, 2, 4, and 5.  Both counselors are available to meet with parents by appointment.  The first week of school we will be doing "Welcome" sessions for all students new to Nottingham in grades 1-5 and displaying their pictures on the bulletin board in the main hallway.  We will go into the classrooms to introduce ourselves and our program.  Beginning the second week of school students in grades 3-5 will be taught weekly lessons by one of the counselors.  These will go through Thanksgiving and cover academic, career, and personal/social competencies.  After Thanksgiving, students in K-2 will have a lesson every other week taught by one of the counselors.
If you are the parent of a new kindergarten student or a student new to Nottingham, please join the  counseling program and the PTA for our "Boo Hoo" kick-off breakfast the first day of school beginning at 8:50am in the library.  Come for a few tips on transitions and to meet other Nottingham parents.
 
May 2012
 Year In Review
Counseling Advisory Committee
We want to thank both staff and parents who served on the Committee this year. The committee members were:
Mary Beth Pelosky and John Koutsouftikis
Marlyn Fitz, Carol Sacks, Elizabeth Berendt Hughes, and Colleen Hughes
Katie Biechman, Donna Jensen, Anne Stewart, and Nicole Gustafson
Mary Beth McCormac and Kaitlin Bresnahan
The work of the committee this year included developing and monitoring school counseling program goals and tackling the issue of how best to celebrate diversity at Nottingham.  Thank you for your service!
 
This year we tried our first online parent book club.  About 22 staff and parents read "Little Girls Can Be Mean."  However, only a few posted comments on Blackboard to discuss reactions.  Many people reported that Blackboard is not user friendly for this type of  format so we will explore alternatives next year.
 
The counseling staff and librarian collaborate to address the issue of helping students become good cyber citizens.  In June all students will get lessons in the library about internet safety and a reminder about cyber-bullying.  Next year we are planning a half day devoted to this to alternate with the career fair.
 
The "Books and Bag Lunch" groups for 5th graders led by the Student Services staff was expanded this year.  Two new books were added to the mix and both were well received.
 
We will not be conducting a formal needs assessment of the counseling program this school year; however, all suggestions are welcome.  Please send any ideas to Dr. McCormac.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 




 

 


 



 

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Last Modified on March 3, 2014